Vernon Voters To Decide Key Reform Measures

Ballots mailed to voters can be returned by mail or turned into the city clerk’s office on Nov. 8 and Nov. 22.

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer

Seventy-one registered voters in the city of Vernon in November will decide the fate of several key reform measures, including restrictions on city council term limits, mandatory competitive bidding on contracts, and the repeal of a measure that separated Light & Power Department funds from the general operating funds.

A total of ten measures, on two separate ballots, will go before Vernon voters on Nov. 8 and Nov. 22. Most of the measures were the result of an agreement made to secure Sen. Kevin de Leon’s support at a time when the city was facing intense disincorporation efforts from state lawmakers.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Votantes de Vernon Decidirán Sobre Medidas de Reforma Claves

The two city elections are set to take place amid questions that the electorate’s independence might be compromised by the fact that the city owns most residential homes, keeps rent at below market rates, and has the power to evict tenants.

Rents range from $120 for a one-bedroom home, to $360 for a three bedroom home, and according to a report by Vernon’s ethics advisor John Van de Kamp, 25 of the 62 registered voters at the time of his review, had ties to city government.

The Vernon city council appointed a seven-person housing commission in May to address questions about the electorate. Some observers and lawmakers have suggested the city sell off its housing stock, while others suggested the city increase the number of residential homes.

On Oct. 18, the city council approved a new rental policy that will allow the commission to set more market-influenced rates for rent, as well as restrict preferential treatment of prospective tenants, with an exception for emergency “first responder” personnel such as firefighters.

Among the ten measures set for the November elections, one measure would make the housing commission permanent if approved by Vernon voters.

The Nov. 8 ballot will include four measures (Measures A, B, C, D) that would change the city charter:

Measure A (City Council Term Limits) asks Vernon voters to decide if city council member terms should be limited to two terms, with a lifetime ban on serving on the city council after having served those two terms.

Measure B (Prevailing Wages) asks Vernon voters to ensure payment of prevailing wages on public works projects.

Measure C (At-Will Employees) asks Vernon voters to remove a provision that mandates at-will employment for city employees. An at-will employee can be terminated for good, bad, or no cause. If passed this measure will not immediately apply to existing employees.

Measure D (City Administrator Job Security and Salary) asks Vernon voters to eliminate restrictions on the city council’s authority to remove the city administrator and to reduce the city administrator’s compensation. Currently the city council must first give the city administrator 30 days notice and hold a public hearing before removing him or her. The city council also cannot remove a city administrator within the first 90 days of the election of a city councilmember, unless the city administrator has been convicted of a felony or crime related to their job.

The remaining six measures (Measures E, F, G, H, I, J) will be decided by voters on November 22:

Measure E (Housing Commission) asks Vernon voters to require that the city maintain a Housing Commission. Currently a housing commission exists, but it can be modified or dissolved by a city council vote.

Measure E would ensure that any changes to the housing commission will go to voters first.

Measure F (Vernon Reform Monitor) asks Vernon voters to decide if the city will be required to retain an Independent Reform Monitor for the next four years.

Measure G (City Council Vacancies) asks Vernon voters to prohibit the city council from making appointments to fill city council vacancies. Instead a special election will be held whenever a seat opens up between regular elections.

Measure H (City Council Compensation Increases) asks Vernon voters to prevent compensation increases for city council members to exceed cost of living adjustments.

Measure I (Light and Power Department Funds) asks Vernon voters to remove restrictions on the use of revenues from the city’s Light and Power enterprise deposited into the city’s General Fund. This repeals a previous measure that prevented Light and Power revenue from being used by any other department.

Measure J (Competitive Bidding) asks Vernon voters to decide if the city will be required to establish an open and competitive bidding process for city service contracts by city ordinance. Currently the city charter provides that no bidding is necessary unless otherwise decided by the city council.

Vernon voters must vote-by-mail. They can also return signed envelopes containing their ballots in person to the Vernon City Clerk’s Office. All ballots are due at the Vernon City Clerk’s Office by mail or in person no later than 8:00 p.m. when balloting closes on both election days.

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October 27, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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